Posts Tagged ‘stiff necks and hard hearts’

Monday, September 21, 2013

panier-fruits[1]Amos 8:1-2

Ripe Fruit

This is what the Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. “What do you see, Amos?” he asked. I answered, “A basket of ripe fruit”. Then the Lord said to me: The time is ripe to have done with my people Israel; I will forgive them no longer”.

Still the dreadful visions assault us – presenting a God who exacts punishment for acts of commission against the weak and vulnerable, for acts of omission for the times we have not answered God’s call. These images conjure up our worst fears. We do not like the ugliness of these scenes. We shrink from the exacting accountability that challenges us. We reject this God of terror and fear.

God says:  My servant Amos was not an eager prophet – he preferred to tend his flocks of sheep and prune his orchards of sycamore trees – yet he answered my call. These visions are not meant to frighten you but they are a reality we must confront with honesty.  My heart yearns to soften those hearts of stone that subjugate the vulnerable, those stiff necks that turn away from my lambs who suffer.  My arms take up all those who run or fly to me.  I mean to inspire love, awe and joy.  These cruel visions are not my hope for you; rather, they are a genuine reflection of the viciousness that is always an option before you.  They are the cruelness each of you may choose if you choose the evil road. Look into your own hearts.  Turn away from this violence and come to me. 

What is the ripe fruit we offer to God?  How do we answer God’s call?

What do we do about famine in our world?  To read about Hunger in the world today, go to: http://www.actionagainsthunger.org/impact/nutrition?gclid=CJuMoqL70LkCFYWd4AodbgwAYQ

What do we know about Refugees in our world? Examine facts about refugees today at: http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and-figures.html

For a reflection on Amos 8, click on the image above or go to: http://cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-lectionary-passages-for-sunday-july_17.html

Image from: http://cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-lectionary-passages-for-sunday-july_17.html

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Monday, September 7, 2020

soft-heart[1]Baruch 2:27-35

Warm Hearts and Heedful Ears

Baruch, secretary to the prophet Jeremiah, sets down his thoughts in poetry and prose. Today we reflect with him on God’s promises recalled.

God says: For I know they will not heed me, because they are a stiff-necked people. But in the land of their captivity they shall have a change of heart; they shall know that I, the Lord, am their God. I will give them hearts and heedful ears; and they shall praise me in the land of their captivity, and shall invoke my name. Then they shall turn back from their stiff-necked stubbornness, and from their evil deeds . . .

listening-ear1[1]Not much has changed about the human race since ancient days; we are still a stubborn and stiff-necked people who are reluctant to heed God’s word. We harden our hearts so that we do not feel another’s pain. We hold hard opinions to cover our fear. We exclude those on the margin with the easy argument that our own hard work has brought us prosperity. Our stubbornness brings us to the captivity of our fears where we perhaps finally have a change of heart and listen for God’s word.

We so often complain about what is wrong with the world when we spread rumors, stir up rancor, and add to the negativity that we so heavily criticize. So let us recall God’s promises and look to improve ourselves rather than others. Let us praise God even though we may be held captive by our fears. Let us open our own ears and soften our own hearts.L et us invoke God’s name and let us turn back from our stiff-necked stubbornness and our own dark deeds.

And let us re-discover God’s gift to us of open, warm hearts and eager, heedful ears.

To learn more about softening hard hearts, click on the heart image above or go to: http://mindsightcoaching.com/softening-the-heart/

For some practical hints on how to listen well, click on the image of the ear or go to: http://christopherwitt.com/how-to-improve-your-listening-skills/

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Friday, September 4, 2020

imagesCAUA46DLProverbs 2

The Blessings of Wisdom

For the last two weeks we have spent time with the opening chapters of Proverbs reflecting on the nature and blessings of Wisdom. What does she look like? Where do we find her? How do we discern true Wisdom from false? What can be gained by sitting at Wisdom’s knee?  Te answers to these questions are outlined in Chapter 2. And they are well worth sorting out and sharing.

One of the qualities of Wisdom is that she is both seen and felt. We turn our ear, incline our heart. We must listen and empathize. We must put aside old parameters and open ourselves to the suffering of others. We put away pat answers and old prejudices. We unbend our stiff necks. We thaw our hardened hearts.

Another of the qualities of Wisdom is that she is a treasure more valuable than any imaginable and yet she is under our noses at all times. She is elusive and yet as tactile as silver. She is mysterious and yet as clear as daylight. She brings the security of knowledge, understanding, counsel, rectitude, justice, honesty and discretion. She saves us from darkness, perversity, crooked paths and those who commit evil.

The meaning of these verses is clear. Those who succumb to the adulteress are lured away by smooth words. Those who look for easy relationships with no thought of commitment and no promise of constancy sink down to death. Closed self-importance and disdain for the pain of others. Self-reliance and a willful disregard for the vulnerable. These are the tendrils of unwise thinking that draw us into the crooked paths of the wicked.

Listening and opening ourselves to the suffering of others. Reliance on God and a willingness to change direction when called by God. By these paths will we find Wisdom. We may come upon her abruptly, or we may see her first from afar and struggle to reach her; but no matter the way our path will be made straight.  hose who seek Wisdom are protected by God and by Wisdom herself.  Of this we are assured.

The choice laid before us could not be more stark or more important: we may be cut off from the land and rooted out . . . or we may dwell in the land and remain in it. These are the blessings of Wisdom.T hey are many, transforming and vital. Let us turn the ear, let us incline the heart, and let us call out to Wisdom and seek her like silver.  This is all the security we will ever need.

A re-post from September 7, 2013.

Image from: http://www.weidknecht.com/2013/02/proverbs-220.html

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Saturday, June 6, 2020

John 6 Bread of LifeDeuteronomy 10:12-22

God’s Work

Circumcise your hearts and be no longer stiff-necked.

This is a verse we can never hear too often.  In Chapters 4 through 11 of this book, Moses preaches to his people about the Law of the covenant which God shares with them.  In this way, the book is another form of communication with God – and Moses here is motivating obedience, encouraging reform.  (Mays 195)  “Because God elected this tiny, enslaved people, they should now keep his law.  Election requires internal circumcision, the removal of any obstacle to willing obedience.  God’s greatness is reflected in concern for the marginal people in society, a concern characteristic of the law that will follow”.  (Mays 200)

This is a heavy challenge for us in that we must be willing to remove anything from our lives which separates us from God.  These obstacles may be people, places, habits, or attitudes which inhibit us from seeing ourselves clearly.  What we often forget is that we are here to have our rough edges smoothed, our wrinkles ironed out, and our branches pruned and disciplined.  And no matter how often we avoid learning a lesson, God will continue to send us new lesson plans through which to experience the freedom he wishes for each of us . . . he loves us this much.  We might try to pick and choose the messages we want to hear.  We might think that we can pick and choose among the many seminars God has prepared for us.  Yet in the end, we will find that the very people, places, habits and attitudes we value might be our obstacles.  And these obstacles must be dealt with.  How do we know what to avoid in life and what to take on?  How do we know what is God’s work and what is the work we have decided for ourselves is best, perhaps against God’s recommendation?

We hear that answer in today’s Gospel message from John 6: Jesus answered them and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent”.  Jesus’ questioners ask for a sign that they might believe, saying that God sent manna to the Hebrews in the desert to sustain them in their time of distress and to show them that Moses was their shepherd.  Jesus says to these doubters, “I am the bread of life; whoever believes in me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst”. 

The crowd murmurs that they do not believe that this Jesus, the son of the carpenter Joseph whom they knew, can be the bread of heaven – the stuff that sustains us eternally.  And so the questioners go away, thinking that rejection of Jesus is a solid decision.  Jesus questions the twelve who follow him, asking why they, too, do not leave.  They reply, Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.

When we become confused by life, when we are tired out from overcoming the obstacles, when we become anxious about the future, worry about the past and forget the present, we are doing our own work rather than God’s.  When we become consumed by plans for ourselves rather than following through with the life that best suits God’s plan, we deceive ourselves.

We have been called.  We have work to attend to.  We can invent our own agenda, we might design our own schedule and routine.  Or . . . we can perform the work lying, waiting in our hands.  This is God’s work and there is no safer place to be, no firmer ground to stand on, no toil more rewarding.  So let us remove the obstacles before us and roll up our sleeves. For there is God’s work to be done!

Image from: http://covingtonfumc.com/templates/System/details.asp?id=29885&PID=798500

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 195 and 200. Print.

First written on August 2, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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John 16: Persecution Predicted

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 

Joy on stone . . .

We have never been told that apostleship is easy.  It has never been said that discipleship is easily lived.  What we have been told, and what has been said is this: your mourning will turn into joy, your reward will be great.

In this chapter Jesus speaks frankly, honestly and openly with his friends.  He assures them that once he goes their life will become difficult.  He reminds them that this is God’s plan and that once he, Jesus, has made his Exodus, the Holy Spirit will come to live with them – to continue to guide, protect and encourage them.

The apostles – and we – stumble through his meaning.  What is this little while of which Jesus speaks?  Jesus tells them that they must begin to petition the Father in Jesus’ name.  And suddenly these followers of the Christ begin to focus on the coming event: The Resurrection which Jesus predicts.  Suddenly, because they are familiar with all of the predictions made in their Testament of Torah, Wisdom and Prophets, they begin to understand that persecution must follow because Jesus is God.

In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.

If we are sailing easily through life’s storms, we must be ignoring some of our assignments.  If we are never challenged by the headlines, by our friends, by our dear ones, we must not be living in the now.  When we hear our thinking going toward “making nice”, “not wanting to upset anyone”, “ignoring something until it goes away or someone else takes care of it”, then we know that we are still stumbling through the meaning of the Christ’s words which he speaks to us today in Chapter 16 of John.

We must not be disheartened when we meet stiff necks, hard hearts, personal agendas.  We must call upon Christ to bring us hope, call upon the Holy Spirit to bring us comfort, call upon the Father to bolster our faith that all harm will be turned to good . . . and we must step fully into the arena of life.

And so we pray . . .

Jesus, God, Holy Comforter, we know that you will never lead us falsely, yet we fear the coming storm.  We doubt our own ability to follow you.  We know that you are always with us, yet your presence is sometimes difficult to feel.  We doubt our own steadfastness.  We know that your words are true, because you are Truth.  We know that your words are loving, because you are Love.  We know that the darkness is shattered by your presence, because you are Light.  Bolster us with confidence, send us courage, because we know of the persecution of this world . . . and we also know that you have already conquered this world.  We ought not to fear, but we are human.  Send us your strength.  Teach us how to find joy in the stony path of life. Remind us that joy will come of our mourning.  Amen. 

First written on June 11, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

For a reflection on living in joy click on the image above or go to: http://www.writtencreations.com/blog/2012/05/30/living-in-joy/

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Luke 4:16-30: From Death Comes Life  

Ireena Eleonora Worthy: A cedar grows from a log in Fairy Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Not even death can separate you from Love, and from death comes Life. Rest in this awareness. (Rohr, A SPRING WITHIN US 137)

This week we have reflected on The Common Wonderful, the amazing gift of God’s self to us, the presence of Spirit’s love within, the promise of Christ presented to us each day as we rise, and resting with us each evening as we retire. In his book of reflections, YES AND . . ., Richard Rohr lays out tools for us so that we might move away from a dualistic view of life and toward a unitive one. He helps us to understand how we might, like Jesus, live both in this world while not being of it.

“Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive, and triumphalistic texts in his own Jewish Bible in favor of passages that emphasized inclusion, mercy, and honesty. That becomes self-evident once you are told and begin to look for yourself. He had a deeper and wider eye that knew what passages were merely cultural, self-serving, and legalistic additions. (YES AND . . . , Rohr xi)

Perhaps we cannot quite believe God’s deep generosity. Maybe Christ’s gift of self is more than we can take in. Does the Spirit’s fidelity and persistence somehow threaten us? Why do we struggle against this common wonderful gift of union? Are we too comfortable with the old quarrels, and too familiar with lines drawn hastily in ancient sands? We might learn more from Jesus if we look at what he does not cite from scripture along with what he does. Again from Rohr.

“Looking at which Scripture passages Jesus emphasizes (remember, the Hebrew Bible is his only Bible!) shows he clearly understands how to connect the “three steps forward” dots that confirm the God he has met, knows, loves, and trusts. At the same time, Jesus ignores or openly contradicts the many “two steps backward” texts. He never quotes the book of Numbers, for example, which is rather ritualistic and legalistic. He never quotes Joshua or Judges, which are full of sanctified violence. Basically, Jesus doesn’t quote from his own Scriptures when they are punitive, imperialistic (“My country and religion are the ‘only’!”), classist, or exclusionary. In fact, he teaches the exact opposite in every case. This is hard to miss. And our job as Christians is to imitate Jesus!” (www.cac.org  Rohr)

Life from death in Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, USA

We tussle with the idea of loving our enemies. We argue about doctrine and dogma, and measure everyone – including ourselves – against rigid yardsticks of long-held practices. We become accustomed to our stiff necks and stony hearts; and yet Christ continues to call us to union in the Spirit. Still God searches for each of us – the lost sheep. Still God pardons, mends, heals, redeems and transforms.

Today let us give away our burdens so that we might discover our names written on God’s hands. Let us be patient in Christ’s time rather than ours as we move through the span of our lives. Let us settle into the stunning reality that we already possess the gift of eternal life; and let us share this good news as we open to the common wonderful that we hold together in Christ.

images from: http://www.newt.com/wohler/events/2008/hawaii/volcanoes-np/ and http://www.neatorama.com/2012/09/18/From-Death-Comes-Life/ 

Richard Rohr, OFM. A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.

Richard Rohr, OFM. Yes and . . . Daily Meditations. Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2013.

More from Rohr’s www.cac.com February 9, 2015 post: “Jesus does not mention the list of 28 ‘thou shall nots’ in Leviticus 18 through 20, but chooses instead to echo the rare positive quote of Leviticus 19:18: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ The longest single passage he quotes is from Isaiah 61 (in Luke 4:18-19): ‘The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, and to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord.’ But Jesus plays fast and easy, as they say, and quotes selectively! He appears to have deliberately omitted the last line—‘and the day of vengeance of our God’ (Isaiah 61:2b)—because he does not believe in a God of vengeance at all.” (https://cac.org/jesus-used-scripture-2015-02-09/)

When we compare different translations of these verses, we discover the futility of vengeance, and the beauty of God’s Common Wonderful.

Enter the words God’s Yardstick in the blog search bar to explore more posts.

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Numbers 16: Rebellion of Korah

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Sandro Botticcelli: The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron

We are much like the wandering tribes in the Numbers’ stories, grumbling and complaining when life’s plan does not go our way. We speak out against leaders, allowing jealousy and pride to govern us rather than any practical, or common sense. We believe the “grass is greener on the other side”. We say that life was better in “the good old days” when we know it was not. We rail against real and perceived injustice; but do we turn to God to ask for intervention? Today’s lesson of rebellion thwarted has much to convey to us.

“You have gone too far! All the members of the community belong to the Lord, and the Lord is with all of us. Why, then, Moses, do you set yourself above the Lord’s community?” 

Once embroiled in a dispute, we hang on no matter the evidence to a contrary view. We dig in and rally friends. We make lists of our foes and plot their overthrow. We say, “All is fair in love and war”. We “go for broke”. We double or hedge our bets. We build castles of defense and refuse to listen to fact or reason. We call down heaven on our enemies; but do we ask for God’s counsel or wisdom? Today’s story of upheaval has much to teach us.

Then Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, but they said, “We will not come! Isn’t it enough that you have brought us out of the fertile land of Egypt to kill us here in the wilderness? Do you also have to lord it over us? You certainly have not brought us into a fertile land or given us fields and vineyards as our possession, and now you are trying to deceive us. We will not come!”

In the clash between Moses and Aaron versus Korah, Dathan and Abiram is severe. Families step forward with paternal heads. Lines are drawn in the sand. Threats fly. Oaths and curses punctuate the conflict. Turbulence envelopes the people; but do they pay heed to God’s presence among them? Today’s story of cataclysm has much to reveal to us.

Suddenly the dazzling light of the Lord’s presence appeared to the whole community.

The outcome of this rebellion is frightening when we look at this story with New Testament eyes.

The ground under Dathan and Abiram split open and swallowed them and their families, together with all of Korah’s followers and their possessions. So they went down alive to the world of the dead, with their possessions. The earth closed over them, and they vanished. 

We look for the justice suffused with mercy we are accustomed to seeing in Jesus’ hands. We try to find the Spirit’s healing presence we experience each Eastertide. Today as we reflect on these verses from Numbers that describe a dualistic response to Moses’ challengers. As we reflect, let us consider the blessing of the Good News we tell and re-tell each year; and let us give thanks for God’s grace that softens hard hearts and unbends stiff necks.

When we compare other translations of this story to this GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION, we open ourselves to the grace and hidden blessing of the rebellion of Korah.

Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korah 

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2 Peter 1:19-21: God’s Yardstick – Peter

The Morning Star in Our Heartsmorningstar_000

Friday, January 29, 2016

We continue to look for God’s yardstick in the New Testament.

Peter writes his Good News story not with ink or stylus but with his hands, feet, ears, eyes and lips. He sends us letters that remain pertinent through millennia.

We couldn’t be more sure of what we saw and heard—God’s glory, God’s voice.

Peter understands that we doubt his story; yet he tells us this Good News from a full and loving heart.

The prophetic Word was confirmed to us. You’ll do well to keep focusing on it.

Peter knows about the distractions of the world and so he advises that we focus on his witness which we know to be true.

It’s the one light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts.

Peter assures us that the light of Christ will pierce the darkness to warm hearts hardened by darkness and doubt.

The main thing to keep in mind here is that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of private opinion. And why? Because it’s not something concocted in the human heart.

Who do you say that I am? Christ asks us just as he asked Peter.

Peter’s response to Jesus is recognition of who Jesus is.

Peter recognizes that the lure of false teachers tugs at us endlessly; for that reason, he tells us to rely on the divine Christ rather than those who give us simple solutions to complex problems.

Prophecy resulted when the Holy Spirit prompted men and women to speak God’s Word.

Peter urges us to rely on the Holy Spirit rather than those who harden hearts and stiffen necks. This is the measure of God’s mercy that Peter gives us today.

Visit Matthew 16:13-17 to examine the context of Peter’s response to Jesus’ question. 

When we use the scripture link above, we have the opportunity to explore more of Peter’s letters. For more on Jesus as The Morning Star, visit: http://biblehub.com/revelation/22-16.htm 

Or click on the image above to visit: http://www.markmallett.com/blog/the-rising-morning-star/ 

Tomorrow, Paul.


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Baruch 2: The Road to Destruction or Redemption – Part II

Wednesday, November 25, 2015IMG_4553_20081019_fm3005_destruction

In Isaiah 24 we read about the devastation of all but the faithful remnant.  In Nehemiah 2 we see a heart wrenching return to the destroyed Jerusalem.  In Revelation 18 we witness the fall of Babylon at her own hands and the destruction of those who followed the unholy trinity of beast, harlot and false prophet and their attendant demon spirits.  With the forces of darkness there is always a final end.  With the forces of light there is always ultimate and infinite jubilation.

Baruch reminds us that there are many ways to visit Babylon and drink of her waters poisoned with the blood of the innocent.  Baruch also reminds us that the door to the New Jerusalem is standing open to us.  There will be a new heaven and a new earth as a counterpoint to the closed, dark, silent void.

God knows that he has created a stiff-necked people; but he has also invited us to convert this stubbornness to an intentional devotion to Christ.  In so doing we decide to walk from darkness to light where we will recall the words of the Lord to us: I will bring them back to the land which with my oath I promised to their fathers . . . and they shall rule it.  I will make them increase; they shall not diminish.  And I will establish for them an eternal covenant, that I will be their God and they shall be my people; and I will not again remove my people Israel from the land I give them.

Minolta DSC

Jesus came into the world to release us from darkness and destruction . . . permanently . . . eternally.  Do we choose to reject this covenant offer of love?  Or do we, the chosen bride, decide to follow the groom where he leads us?  As we rise each day, the decision lies before us.  Perdition or redemption, destruction or salvation. The clear choice lies before us and it is time for us to act. So let us invite others to join us in combating dense and heavy darkness with the light and truth of Christ.

Adapted from a favorite from November 8, 2008.



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